In this photo taken July 12, 2017, Cynthia Guzman walks through a garden outside her home in Napa, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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Does it really take an expensive brain scan to diagnose Alzheimer's? Not everybody needs one but new research suggests that for a surprising number of patients whose memory problems are hard to pin down, PET scans may lead to changes in treatment. The findings, reported Wednesday, mark a first peek at a huge study underway to help determine if Medicare should start paying for specialized PET scans that find a hallmark of Alzheimer's – a sticky plaque called amyloid. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, and classic symptoms plus memory tests often are enough for a reliable diagnosis. One of those is the IDEAS study, which is testing the impact of amyloid-detecting PET scans in more than 18,000 Medicare beneficiaries.More intriguing, just 54 percent of the MCI patients had amyloid buildup, putting them at higher risk for later Alzheimer's.r Unusually young dementia patients, younger than 65, also might be candidates for a PET scan.
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